US-Lebanese man on trial in UAE ‘tortured’

September 15th, 2009 | Posted in Lebanon, Palestine, Repression, Solidarity
    Daily Star, Tuesday, September 15, 2009


    Photo Abu Dhabi skyline.

ABU DHABI: A United States citizen of Lebanese origin facing trial on terrorism charges in the United Arab Emirates confessed under torture, and his case should not be heard in a UAE court, his lawyer told a court on Monday. Naji Hamdan, who has been in custody in the UAE, is charged with “supporting terrorism” and being a member of Iraqi militant group Ansar al-Sunna because he entered an Islamist website and donated money to an Islamic charity.

The charges carry a penalty of 10 to 15 years in jail followed by deportation. A verdict is due on October 12.

Hamdan denied charges when he first appeared in court in June, after earlier confessing after he was detained by UAE state security forces a year ago.

“The confessions attributed to Hamdan were given under duress and torture,” lawyer Abdel-Qadir al-Haithami told the supreme court.

“And how can there be any evidence of torture after 90 days in state security?” he asked.

Public prosecutors say Hamdan donated $2,000 to an unnamed Islamic charity and that the money was used for firing two rockets on Israel. It was not clear from where or when.

His lawyer said other evidence used against Hamdan was that he copied an item from an Islamist website and sent it to another website.

He said this was not a crime in UAE law and that UAE courts were not competent to hear the case since the alleged crimes were committed in the United States.

The UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel but backs the self-rule government of US-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who favors negotiations over armed action in the Palestinians’ quest for statehood.

The US Embassy in the UAE has declined to comment on the case except to say that Hamdan has been given consular support.

The American Civil Liberties Union has said US authorities referred the case to the Arab Gulf country because there was not sufficient evidence for a trial in US courts.

Hamdan lived in the United States for 20 years where he ran an auto parts business, but moved to the UAE in 2006.

“His house, car, garage, and safe have all been searched, with not a single piece of evidence found,” his lawyer told the court. “How can someone, accused of being in touch with terrorist organizations, not leave any evidence?”

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